Senior Dinner Address by Sara Delano Collins ’98

Good evening faculty, staff, honored guests, and most importantly Williston Class of 2014. Thank you for having me as part of your senior dinner. It is truly an honor to be here and be back on campus. Believe it or not, when I come back I feel like I was just here yesterday. Campus always has this wonderfully familiar feel, like putting on your favorite pair of jeans.

When Mr. Pilgrim asked me to speak at the Senior Dinner, I said, “Of course.”  And then immediately thought what could I possibly have to say to any of you 18-year-olds that you would need or even want to hear about.

I mentioned to my mother that I was deciding what I would share with you and she asked me who spoke at my senior dinner. What were their remarks and what did I think of them?

I thought.

And responded, “I don’t remember…”

She giggled and said, “Well, there you go. It won’t matter because none of them will remember, just be yourself and you will be fine. Plus, you have so many wonderful memories from Williston. They helped you build the foundation of your life.” “This was true,” I thought.

I went back to thinking and consulted some other folks. My financial advisor (also a Williston alumnus) suggested I convey the importance of saving your money early and the power of the time value of money. True, but boring.

I went back to the drawing board and remembered that in an email “Pil” had mentioned talking about life then and now. So I thought back on what life was like for me when I was attending my senior dinner (in the late ’90s) vs. now as I attend yours.

Well, there is the obvious: I am not 18 any more. Now I generally have a one-year-old in tow and I work full time in the technology industry as product management consultant. I no longer get to spend hours a day skiing, playing lacrosse, or soccer. I miss that. Then, my best friend was Alison (we would plan our outfits so we would match, she will probably kill me for publicly sharing that). Today my best friend is still Alison and now we buy our toddlers matching p.j.’s, such dorks, I know!

One of the most significant differences between then and now is the infusion of technology into our everyday lives. When I was 18 I still had an emergency quarter in my bag in case I needed to use a pay phone to call home. There were no laptops, iPads, and iPhones for each member of the family. We had one clunky desktop with dial up Internet and I had to negotiate with my brothers for computer time. My freshmen year in college, I finally got my own cell phone—it was a flip phone—and my own laptop. It weighed 20 lbs. I felt SO COOL! Now I am not sure this is totally an accurate picture of where technology stood at time, but I was able to grow up without the shadow of Facebook, Twitter, and constantly being connected looming over my every move, thought, and photo opportunity.

I personally LOVE the infusion of technology into our lives and literally could not live without my iPhone. Technology is AWESOME!

But it can only go so far. I work for a company that eliminates the transfer of paper documents in the litigation process. I was showing a young man named John, who had recently graduated from law school and was now clerking for a judge while studying for the bar, how to use our application to view and manage the case flow.

He was a quick learner and picked up all of the features and functionality quickly, faster than older folks I was doing workflow analysis with that week. We reached a stopping pointing and I asked if he had any questions. He mentioned again how easy the software application was, but appeared really stumped on something. In a warm and encouraging voice I asked if there was anything else. John said actually there was. He was unsure how he was supposed to ask the judge he was clerking for a question about a motion. At first I thought I misunderstood his question, so I clarified further. And realized he was REALLY asking me with the arrival of this new technology in chambers how he was supposed to talk to his judge. I smiled and said “ It is this old fashion thing called communication.” He laughed and I said, “Seriously, you’ll have to get up out of your chair knock on her door and talk to her about the motion.” He smiled and said, “Oh, okay..!”

Like I said technology is AWESOME, but it is only as AWESOME and POWERFUL the people using it.

Learning how to connect with others begins in the womb and goes on all of your life. Some of the most significant connections I have made outside of my family started right here, at Williston. Connecting with teammates, coaches, and competitors on the sports field, teachers and peers in the classroom, and others from the larger community, taught me about the depth and richness of our interactions with other beings.

I hope Williston has been a place where you have made significant connections that will be with you as you navigate through your life. When you mom asks you more than a decade from now who spoke at your senior dinner it would be nice if you remember, but it not just don’t forget to look up and connect.

Before I conclude I want everyone to stand up, turn to the person next to you, and look them right in the eye. Now shake their hand. A nice firm hand shake! THAT is human connection and technology will NEVER replace it. I do not care how tech savvy or brilliant you are if you do not have the ability to connect with others on a human level your success will be limited.

Thank you for having me and I wish you all the best of luck in your VERY BRIGHT FUTURES!

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